Criminal barristers play a fundamental role in ensuring access to justice, often for the most vulnerable in our society. Having already increased their fees by £9 million in April this year, we launched a consultation on a proposal to increase fees by a further £15 million. That consultation has recently closed, and we are carefully considering the responses.
Our justice system depends on proper legal representation. A constituent of mine, a dedicated and experienced barrister, works 15 hours a day, six to seven days a week. Two years ago, he earned £8,000; last year, he struck lucky and earned £26,000. Will the Minister commit to honouring the letter and spirit of the advocates’ graduated fees scheme, and make sure it has an early review?
The Lord Chancellor and I take very seriously the importance of having a system of advocates that represents people, and we value the independent Bar as well as the employed Bar. I met the leaders of the Bar Council last week, as well as the leaders—the chair and the vice-chair—of the Criminal Bar Association to hear their concerns, and we are listening very closely to what they have to say.
I call Chris Evans, for Question 9—not here. Where is the feller? I hope he is not indisposed.